Import jQuery

5 Things I Learned About God and Messianic Faith in 2017


As 2017 wraps up, I’m reflecting on this past year and the things I’ve learned about God and Messianic faith. 5 major items come to mind:

  1. Hebrew Roots is in trouble
  2. Heaven as we imagine it isn’t what the Bible describes
  3. Good works really are good
  4. Family is ministry
  5. Living faithfully is hard

How I came to realize these things, and approaches to address them in our movement, found below.

1. Hebrew Roots is in trouble

“Judah, you are deceived, leading people astray, and you have a demon.”

-A person in my local congregation after I rejected his flat earth views

This year has seen more foolishness from the Hebrew Roots world than I have ever encountered in my 30 years in Messianic faith. In particular, the full embrace of conspiracy theories has made Hebrew Roots an object of ridicule and embarrassment.

Flat earth. Serpent seed. Aliens. Portals. End times date-setting.

imageMy mind paints a picture of wild-eyed UFO hunters and frazzled Crazy Uncles holding “The end is near!” signs.

But this year, it often characterized my own people of faith: Hebrew Roots Christianity.

This year, two people left my congregation over the geometric shape of the earth.

Yes, some of the holy people of God were so grieved that we didn’t subscribe to conspiracy theories that the earth is flat, they left our congregation. The last gentleman who left our congregation over flat earth told me that, because I didn’t believe the earth is flat, I was deceived, leading people astray, and that I had a demon.

Let that sink in.

Hebrew Roots people are dividing over the idea that NASA is conspiring to keep the truth about the shape of the planet hidden from humanity.

Messiah, the Righteous One, God’s humble servant to humanity commanded us to be the light of the world. But instead, we’re fighting (and leaving congregations!) over the friggin’ shape of the earth. What a horrible representation of God’s good name and reputation. God forgive us.

This ocean of foolishness has caused me a kind of crisis of faith. If folks folks in my corner of faith are so deceived, do I really belong here? Is there a place for critical thinking and skepticism in our movement? Is there a place for scholarship, science, modern medicine, and questioning? If not, do I really fit into Hebrew Roots?

It’s gotten so bad that several Hebrew Roots teachers who don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories have ceased using the Hebrew Roots label. One prominent example is a teacher from my own congregation, Ryan White from Rooted In Torah. Rico Cortes, Tim Hegg, J.K. McKee, and numerous others have also distanced themselves from “Hebrew Roots” and now more identify with the more established Messianic Jewish movement. I can’t blame them.

What we need are strong leaders who will not bow to conspiracy theories or other distractions from the power of the gospel of Messiah Yeshua. What we need is mercy and wisdom and  guidance from the King Himself. We need renewal. Hebrew Roots needs to refocus on the Hebraic root of our faith: the Israel-centric gospel of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua. His teachings to Israel. How He kept the Torah given to Israel.

In the short time the Lord has given me to influence folks, I will strive to focus on the gospel of Messiah and avoid the foolish distractions so plaguing our movement.

2. Heaven as we imagine isn’t what the Bible describes

Heaven is not your home. (You were created as a human to function on planet earth, not merely as a soul to live forever in an airy spiritual place.)

Heaven isn’t the final destination. (You’ll be resurrected here on earth and reign with God.)

Heaven isn’t eternal life. (If you’re heaven, that means your body is dead; that would be eternal death.)

Heaven isn’t the “Kingdom of Heaven.” (The Kingdom of Heaven is a circumlocution for “Kingdom of God”, in the same way “Oh my heavens!” is a circumlocution for “Oh my God!”)

Heaven isn’t the “Kingdom of God.” (The Kingdom of God refers to the Messianic Age here on earth when Messiah reigns from Jerusalem.)

The gospels are essentially silent on the airy place of disembodied souls joining God’s spiritual abode. (It speaks often about the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God, but that refers to the Messianic nation of God on earth.)

Heaven isn’t a guarantee for anyone who said the sinner’s prayer.

So what is heaven?

It’s the abode of God.

Will you go there? Maybe. There’s no such guarantee in the New Testament.

And the disciples weren’t concerned about “going to heaven.”

They were concerned about entering the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God. That involves resurrecting from the dead when God reigns from Jerusalem. It doesn’t involve dying and going to see floating cherubs plucking harps.

3. Good works really are good

How are we’re supposed to be a light to the world? By doing good works.

What good works? Feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, caring for people in need. Give to charity. Volunteer your time to do good.

That’s a tangible light to the world. Meaning, people who are outside of our faith will see this as good, right, even holy.

The Hebrew Roots sub-movement can produce good in the world and amplify Messiah’s name. It will require us to stop with foolish distractions and do what Messiah told us to do.

This is bad news for the do-nothing gospel that plagues much of Christianity, but good news for the re-emergence of God’s people.

4. Family is ministry

Some are called to be evangelists, some are street preachers, some pastors, some scholars and students.

But some people are called to create and care for a family.

Being a husband and father is a holy calling, as holy and necessary as the Apostle Paul types. It most closely emulates God our Father and Husband to His people.

I was once told by a man in our congregation that I wasn’t following Messiah since I wasn’t preaching on the streets with him or performing miraculous healings through the laying on of hands.

I’ve had other people express disappointment in me when I couldn’t attend their religious event or spend more time in study or prayer with them.

The reason I can’t do those things is I have a family.

My wife and 3 children need me. And they need me to be a present helper, leader, provider, dad and husband. More than you need me to be a prayer warrior, street preacher, or student.

5. Living faithfully is hard

Belief is easy. Works are harder. Living a faithful life of integrity in public and private is the hardest.

I’ve struggled with things in my life and this year it’s more apparent to me.

If you talk God, but fight with your wife, it’s hypocrisy. If you preach self-control, but lose your temper, it’s hypocrisy. Ditto for porn. Ditto for lying. Ditto for stealing in all its forms; like stealing money or time from your employer.

It’s hard to live a faithful life. And I think why so many secular people see us believers as hypocrites is because we actually are hypocrites. And the reason for that is because walking a path of integrity is hard.

We need again a renewal, an actual and authentic help from the Helper, the very spirit of God inside us. At least I do, friends.

These things I have learned this year in my walk with the Lord. What about you?

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